Though the rural jobs guarantee scheme MGNREGA hasn’t really provided jobs to that many people—just around 11 million jobs in FY13—along with the fall in the size of the work force with large number of women dropping out, this has aggravated matters considerably. Rural wages are growing at rates they have seldom before. Naturally, sectors like textiles, already in trouble, have been hit badly. It is in this context that rural development minister Jairam Ramesh’s decision to extend MGNREGA to sericulture is an idea that needs to be taken forward. Indian silk is losing its lustre globally with exports of natural silk textile falling to $155 million in FY13 from $380 million in FY08 and $238 million in FY00 while exports of silk carpets rose close to $945 million just before the Lehman crisis from $645 million in FY00 but stagnated below the $1 billion mark as China continues to dominate the global market with 80% share as against India's 17.5% by selling its silk at a price 20-30% cheaper than India.
It is this that MGNREGA seeks to correct since, while Chinese wages are rising, the silk industry’s wages will partly be subsidised by MGNREGA. Why not do this for the broader textile sector?